Opinion Columns & Blogs

Rhonda O’Neill: Social workers are dedicated

As a pediatric intensive care nurse, I cared for the most severely abused children in our community. I left the hospital years ago because I could not bear to see one more broken child.

I now volunteer my time working to help prevent child abuse within the community as part of the Wichita Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention. I work closely with more than 60 local agencies that collaborate to strengthen families, protect children and ultimately prevent child abuse. The Kansas Department for Children and Families has been an important part of this group.

I have felt frustration reading the caustic responses directed toward DCF (“Cut DCF funds,” Jan. 15 Letters to the Editor). I would like for our community to realize that child abuse and neglect are very complex issues, and there are many factors that increase the risk for abuse and neglect.

Our community’s increases in poverty, homelessness, single parenthood and unemployment in the aviation industry have made the situation even more tenuous. Our Kansas government also has reduced funding to most of these agencies that are working to support families. All of these factors create more stress on families, further increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.

I have worked very closely on the coalition with the DCF administrator for prevention and protection services, along with other DCF social workers. I have witnessed the passion, professionalism and commitment they bring to protecting children.

This is a very complicated job, and they make difficult decisions on a daily basis. They are criticized if they take a child out of the home, and they are criticized if they don’t remove a child. Regardless of the public’s opinion, their priority is to do everything possible to protect the child.

I encourage anyone who feels outrage at the abuse that occurs in our community to get out there and do something to make a difference.

I also ask for more non-biased reporting on these cases. I am glad The Eagle is increasing the community’s awareness of child abuse and neglect, but give us a more thorough look at the process. Walk us through the day of a DCF social worker. It is one of the hardest jobs out there, and I have great respect and appreciation for those doing this work.

Rhonda O’Neill lives in Wichita.